Monday, January 25, 2010
PREVENTION: Cooking Fires Can Turn Deadly
A cooking fire can quickly turn deadly. Sadly, many begin and end the same way.
In Wisconsin , three children under the age of six died when smoke and heat filled their second-floor apartment, preventing escape. Their mother managed to climb out a window and call the fire department from a neighbor’s house, but she was unable to save the children. The fire occurred in a two-story, wood-frame, multi-unit dwelling. The unsprinklered apartment had no smoke alarms.
The fire began when a pan of food left cooking unattended on the apartment’s stove overheated. Flames spread from the pan to the kitchen cabinets and other combustibles until it involved the entire room. The woman, who was in her bedroom, smelled smoke shortly before 1 a.m. and went to investigate. When she saw the fire, she ran from the apartment, leaving her three sleeping daughters, ages 5, 4, and 3.
Home cooking fires kill hundreds of Americans and injure roughly 4,000 more each year. Aside from death and injury, other personal losses are suffered with half a billion dollars in homes and their contents destroyed annually.
During Fire Prevention Week emphasis is placed on raising the public’s awareness of fire prevention and safety with a special focus this year on the importance of preventing cooking fires in the home. This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Prevent Cooking Fires: Watch What You Heat.” Fire Prevention Week is scheduled to take place October 8 through October 14. NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 80 years.
According to NFPA statistics, cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Most cooking equipment fires start with the ignition of common household items such as food or grease, cabinets, wall coverings, paper or plastic bags, curtains, etc.
Cooking equipment, most often a range or stove top, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, says Marty Ahrens, manager of NFPA’s Fire Analysis Services. Cooking equipment is also the leading cause of unreported fires and associated injuries or illnesses. When cooking equipment is described as a cause, it means that cooking equipment provided the heat that started the fire, not that the equipment malfunctioned. More cooking equipment fires are caused by human error than malfunction.
According to her most recent research on cooking fires, the leading cause of cooking equipment fires is unattended cooking. Cooking oil, grease and frying are frequently factors in these fires. Fifty-five percent of the civilians who were injured in home cooking equipment fires in 1999 to 2003 were injured while trying to fight the fire themselves. Most reported home cooking fires stay small, with 71 percent of the incidents either coded as confined cooking fires or having flame damage confined to the object of origin. Even so, 38 percent of the reported injuries and 8 percent of the fatalities resulted from these small fires.
Please be careful when cooking and always make sure all sources of heat are strictly monitored. A fire extinguisher should be in every kitchen, visual, and easily accessible. For any other questions, call Fire Chief Mike Hatfield at 324-2323.